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NBA overtaking NFL with postseason storylines

May 21, 2011
Weirton Daily Times

Move over NFL, the NBA is hot on your heels.

While America's past time, professional football, continues to bicker among itself during a self-imposed lockout thus alienating its fanbase, the National Basketball Association is riding a wave of momentum capable of capturing the hearts of casual sports fans.

Things could not have set up better for professional basketball at the moment.

Three major markets are represented in its conference finals: Dallas, Chicago and Miami.

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma City Thunder cannot be overlooked with their raucous home crowds while still catching curious NBA onlookers with the shrink wrap seemingly still intact after the franchise's move from Seattle to the Midwest in 2008.

The personalities among the teams make the match-ups even more intriguing.

Dirk Nowitzski is invoking the hallowed name of Larry Bird with his play for the Dallas Mavericks. His recent 48-point performance, while going 24-for-24 from the free throw line, was otherworldly. A 7-footer with his type of shooting touch has never been seen and draws some of the crowds who love oddities.

Oklahoma City presents the dynamic duo of Kevin Durant, the league's leading scorer two years running, and Russell Westbrook, a NBA All-Star in his own right. The Durantula is on the verge of true superstardom and averaging 32 points per game at the start of pro basketball's version of the Red River Rivalry.

Chicago sports the NBA's reigning Most Valuable Player, Derrick Rose. The point guard achieved the feat during just his third season and became the league's youngest ever to win the award. He is also the first Chicago Bull to be anointed with such honors since the great Michael Jordan retired (the first time).

All the while, the NBA's villains wait in the wings.

The Miami Heat with its triumvirate of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh may be the current favorite to win the title.

Admittedly, James' choice last summer was disappointing for those who support the Cleveland Cavaliers. His "Decision" was inflammatory. But the the team's title run seems inevitable. In the end, it didn't make many friends or fans of the Heat.

Otherwise, the men in black have steamrolled their competition and slayed the green dragon in the Eastern conference known as the Boston Celtics.

As a side note, even without the services of the NBA's two storied franchises, the Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers, as much of a national story can be written about their demise in the playoffs as much as it would have been if they advanced.

The proof of the league's current popularity is in the numbers. As early as the beginning of the month, the NBA's host cable television network, TNT, averaged its highest ratings ever over the time they have covered the association.

This may have culminated in the current match-up with the Heat and the Bulls. The initial games of the series have drawn two of the four highest ratings in cable television history for a basketball contest.

Miami's superstar and international icon, Lebron James, sells, period.

The drama of Lebron's departure from Cleveland spurred all kinds of disdain for the superstar and left the Cleveland Cavaliers in the lurch.

The Cavs have recently rebounded back in one of the better recent stories garnering the first and fourth overall picks in the league's draft lottery.

To further the story of Cleveland's recent rash of good luck, Minnesota Timberwolves' general manager David Kahn insinuated this week that the lottery may be rigged so those types of feel good stories win out each off season.

Whatever the case, the immediate return to competitiveness may be in the cards for Cleveland after suffering through the heartbreak it did last season.

Another new addition to sports programming, which may be superior to the NFL's, is the NBA's version of the pre-draft combine. This is where the aspiring talents coming out of college work out for potential teams. It was televised for the first time Thursday and Friday.

Unlike the NFL's version where prospects simply run around in shorts and t-shirts, basketball prospects actually participated in basketball functions. They shot the ball. They ran the floor. They competed in fast break drills. Basketball actually took place.

Furthermore, the amount of names a normal fan has to digest regarding potential NBA prospects is is far less than the 325 which competed in Indianapolis before being drafted in the NFL's April draft.

All of this positive momentum in the direction may prove moot in the end as it seems the association is destined to end in a lockout, just like its NFL brethren. Once 2011 comes to a close, all three major American sports could be in work stoppage situations. Now that would prove to be the end of the world for sports fans.

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